Repair fund helps Hereford cathedral prepare for First World War commemorations.

A national scheme to conserve and repair England’s cathedrals from which Hereford cathedral was awarded £920,000 has significantly reduced immediate risks, a report published today said.

The £40 million First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund, launched by the Government in 2014, invited applications from Catholic and Church of England cathedrals to address urgent repair works. The fund prioritised making buildings weatherproof, safe and open to the public as well as ensuring they would be in a safe condition to host acts of remembrance for the centenary of the First World War armistice in 2018.

Hereford Cathedral received a total of £920,000, which enabled essential repairs to be made to the roofs, including the replacement of lead work making the building more secure and preventing further damage caused by rainwater. The fund also meant that the cathedral was able to replace the obsolete sound system, including the installation of a new hearing loop, improving the experience of many who partake in worship at the cathedral, particularly when in large numbers. This will be of a huge benefit to congregation during the upcoming First World War commemorations.

England’s cathedrals contribute more than £220m to the economy each year, drawing in more than 11 million visitors. Each cathedral has the responsibility for raising the funds required for upkeep. However, with no regular Government funding, each cathedral faces an ongoing challenge to maintain their fabric while ensuring comfort, safety and accessibility for all.

In total, of 146 awards were made to 57 cathedrals. Twelve cathedrals were awarded more than £1 million each, and the average award was £274,000. Grants were awarded over two phases between 2014-18.

Today’s independent report shows a significant reduction of problems requiring immediate repair as a result of the investment but warned that recipients all had outstanding repairs in areas not covered by the scheme.

Grants were awarded by an independent panel chaired by Sir Paul Ruddock, a position appointed by the Secretary of State. The Fund was administered by the Church of England’s Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division (CCB) on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, with the CCB praised in the report for cost efficiency and excellent communication.

The report concluded that the fund had been successful in achieving its aims and met a funding need that could not be met elsewhere, adding that areas of cathedrals covered by grant-aided projects had been very largely changed from needing urgent repair to needing routine maintenance only. 

Hereford Cathedral has already seen a huge increase in visitor numbers this year with over 196,000 people visiting Poppies: The Weeping Window during the six weeks it was on display in the spring. The sculpture came to Hereford Cathedral as part of 14–18 NOW’s UK-wide tour of the iconic poppy sculptures Wave and Weeping Window, which have been seen by over 3.75 million people to date.

There will be a special service on Remembrance Sunday to mark the centenary and in the week leading up to the 11 November, the names of the fallen from Herefordshire will be read in the cathedral. As in previous years the tower of the cathedral will also be specially lit in red as a mark of remembrance.

The Dean of Hereford, The Very Revd Michael Tavinor, said: ‘One of the most creative parts of the commemoration of the First World War has been an understanding that it’s not only about the past – important as that is.  We have to look back, to remember the sacrifices made – but we also have to look forward. The setting up of the WWI Cathedrals Fund was an inspired way of using the commemoration to plan for the future. Our cathedrals play a vital part in the civic and national life of our country and to link these great buildings with equipping them for the future through the WWI fund has been both visionary and supremely practical.

At Hereford, we are hugely grateful for the support we’ve received for our north aisle repairs and for our sound system. Without this support, it is unlikely that either of these projects would have come to fruition. We pray that, by helping to make our cathedrals “fit for purpose, for the future” we are helping them serve their purpose as places where truth and justice and peace can be nurtured and celebrated.’

The Bishop of Worcester, The Right Revd Dr John Inge, the Church of England’s lead bishop for churches and cathedrals said: ‘Cathedrals such as Hereford are at the forefront of the nation’s acts of remembrance each year, and have a huge impact on the economic and spiritual lives of their communities.

‘This fund has been an imaginative and welcome resource to ensure our cathedrals are fit for this commemoration, as well as underpinning the vital contributions they make to their communities.

‘It is vital that we do not stop here, and continue our commitment as a nation to protecting Hereford and all England’s cathedrals for generations to come. We look forward to continuing a constructive dialogue with the Government around future funding collaborations.’

Pictured above: The Dean of Hereford inspects the roof repairs which have been funded by the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund